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Going 360: Impact of potential freight rail strike on Kansas City

Railroad Contract Talks
Posted at 5:56 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 19:20:18-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A strike from freight rail workers could be on the horizon if labor unions aren't able to reach a new agreement with railroad companies.

Experts predict the United States could lose $2 billion a day should a strike happen. Strikes could begin as early 11:01 p.m. on Thursday.

At the center of the debate between the unions and railroad companies is personal time.

The unions allege workers get "disciplinary points" if they take time off.

KSHB 41 News is taking this story 360 to explain the implications it could have on the Kansas City area.

In this story we hear from:

  • A business owner
  • Kansas senator
  • Economist

Business owner
KSHB 41 News spoke with Jeff Huff, who co-owns RE, a furniture store near the Crossroad in Kansas City, Missouri.

Huff said he's still recovering from supply chains caused by the pandemic and is worried about the strike could slow production even more.

"Sometimes, it's one step forward, two steps back It feels like," Huff said.

Because furniture is moved by train, Huff said he'll continue to closely monitor the situation.

"Even with the best laid plans, sometimes you gotta make adjustments along the way," he said.

Economics professor
Larry Wigger is an economist and professor at the University of Missouri - Kansas City. He said consumers could feel the impact of the strike on their wallets.

Wigger said moving products through tractor trailers costs three times as much as doing so by train.

But, if there's a strike, that option will be gone and consumers will be paying a lot more for any products.

"If you think about that box of cereal on the shelf, a $5 box of cereal, $0.50 of that cost is due to transportation," Wigger said. "That $0.50 is now $1.50, making that $5 box of cereal $6 a box."

Kansas senator
Kansas sees plenty of rail traffic.

In fact, when ranked by rail miles, Kansas is the sixth-highest behind California and Pennsylvania.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R - Kansas) is worried about the impacts the strike could have on farmers.

"In parts of Kansas, facing severe drought feed yards, places that we feed cattle are shipping grain in from other areas of the country to feed their livestock," he said. "Rail service is critical to making sure these producers are able to get the feed they needed to keep their livestock fed and healthy."